Research seminar, Ghent 29 May 2020

Rethinking repertoires: how ordinary people conducted politics in the nineteenth century.
Our seminar on 19th century popular politics and the ways in which ordinary people could shape the world around them is now open for registration. Our starting point is the work of the eminent historical sociologist Charles Tilly, who put forth the idea of protest repertoires.

Like street musicians, ordinary people resort to a limited amount of pre-written “scripts” to express their discontent, even though many other “tunes” seem possible in theory. This metaphor proved to be an intricate instrument for historical research, as it acknowledges both the creative agency of historical actors and the structuring determinants limiting their play.

Protest repertoires changed fundamentally during the 19th century. Strikes took the place of food riots, charivaris made way for demonstrations and tax rebellions left the stage for public meetings. Or at least, that is how the classic story goes. We wonder whether Tilly’s riot-to-demonstration thesis can withstand recent trends in political history. Historians have increasingly interchanged a national for a local  or international perspective, adopted an everyday perspective instead of concentrating on major events, and broadened their understanding of what it means to “act political”. As a result of this shifting perspective, it becomes increasingly difficult to think about development in linear terms.

Recent historical studies have made our picture of popular politics and protest repertoires richer and more diverse, but also more disconnected than ever. This fragmentation begs the question if there is still a larger story to tell about the nature of “popular politics” in the 19th century. Our seminar wants to address this question by revisiting the work of the late Charles Tilly. In this seminar, we aim to confront his theories with recent developments in political history and vice versa. Two excellent keynote speakers will guide us through this difficult but rewarding topic: Maartje Janse (Leiden University) and Katrina Navickas (University of Hertfordshire). In addition, four other researchers will present their own empirical research.

On behalf of the Research School Political History, we warmly invite everyone to attend our meeting on the 29th of May in Ghent, Liberas, Kramersplein 23, 9000 Ghent. For PhDs and RMA-students ECTS can be awarded.

For more information, please send an email to:

Please register before 15 May 2020 by sending an email to

All the best,

The organizing committee. Jasper Bongers, Martin Schoups, Dirk Jan Wolffram


Time table: 

10.00-10.15       Welcome and introduction

10.15-11.15       Katrina Navickas, Revisiting the Politics of Contention and Charles Tilly’s methodologies in a Digital Humanities Age

11.15-11.30       Coffee break 1

11.30-12.00       Antoine Renglet, Popular Violence toward Police Officers in Belgian Cities, 1789-1814

12.00-12.30       Martin Schoups, Taking the streets: repertoires of the crowd in urban space, Antwerp, 1884-1936.

12.30-13.15       Lunch break

13.15-14.15       Maartje Janse, Expanding the repertoire: A transnational perspective

14.15-14.30       Coffee break 2

14.30-15.00       Adriejan van Veen, Repertoires of depoliticization, 1800-1850.

15.00-15.30       Jasper Bongers, Repertoires of institutional work, Utrecht, 1850-1900

15.30-15.45       Coffee break 3

15.45-17.00       Round Table, Rethinking repertoires: how ordinary people conducted politics in the nineteenth century

17.00-18.00       Drinks


Organizers and speakers

Jasper Bongers is a PhD candidate at the Open University. His research concerns the ways in which citizens have attempted to (co-)shape institutions of public health in the city of Utrecht, 1850-200. 

Dr. Maartje Janse is associate professor at Leiden University. She has published on the history of social movements and is currently working on a transnational study of the ‘invention’ of the pressure group in the decades between 1820 and 1840. 

Dr. Katrina Navickas is a reader in history at the University of Hertfordsire. She has published on the history of 18th and 19th century protest, among others the monograph Protest and the Politics of Space and Place, 1789-1848, Manchester University Press, 2015. 

Dr. Antoine Renglet is a post-doc researcher at Goethe University Frankfurt. He has published on the history of police forces and public order (18th-19th century) and is currently working on the policing of cities in Napoleonic Europe. 

Martin Schoups M.A. is a PhD candidate at Ghent University. His project examines how forms street politics changed or persisted in times of political modernization, in the city of Antwerp, ca. 1880-1940.

Dr. Adriejan Van Veen is assistant professor at Radboud University Nijmegen. He has published on the history of political and societal organization and is currently working on the connection between civil society and political culture in Dutch towns between about 1780 and 1860.